Vodafone embraces change

11 October 2011

LONDON: Vodafone, the telecoms giant, believes that a transformation of its corporate model has delivered substantial benefits in the UK, including improved levels of revenue.

The company currently has 19.2m British customers, leaving it behind rivals O2 with 22m, and Everything Everywhere, the joint operations of Orange and T-Mobile, on 26.8m.

Guy Laurence, Vodafone's UK CEO, suggested the competitiveness of the telecoms market, a sluggish economy and evolving digital media habits required a shift in both internal and external focus.

"We decided to rewrite the way we worked," he told the Daily Telegraph. "A lot of the Western way of working is broken and old-fashioned. We said we were going to break every rule we felt was no longer relevant to Generation Y."

As such, the 3,500 staff at Vodafone's headquarters are given laptops but no set desk, using looser "home zones" instead. Dress codes are similarly relaxed, while smaller details like cutting paper use minimise bureaucratic behaviour.

"We have much more empowerment with decision-making pushed way down into the organisation," said Laurence. "It used to take us 90 days to do a pricing change. We do that in four days now."

In further demonstration of success, the firm's sales grew from £5bn to £5.3bn over the year to March. Customer complaints have also fallen by 57% in two years, and distribution problems have been resolved by re-entering Carphone Warehouse stores.

Simultaneously with this company-wide process, Vodafone attempted to reverse negative perceptions about its price credentials among consumers.

Alongside running major ad campaigns, it has increased loyalty via the Freebees scheme, giving rewards to customers, and Vodafone VIP, providing exclusive access to various events.

"We were not more expensive than our competitors, though everybody thought we were," Laurence said. "People don't think we are more expensive now. And our consumer business is twice the size of our enterprise business."

Equally, Vodafone was often regarded as being too "businessy" and male-orientated, characteristics Laurence argued were "legacy issues" from its comparatively long history.

"We've been around for 27 years, which none of the other mobile brands have; it was where our original DNA came from and it had just persisted," he said. "We needed to ask customers to reappraise how they viewed us."

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff